Easy Saffron Rice

Easy saffron rice

The Spruce

Prep: 12 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 32 mins
Servings: 4 servings

This easy recipe for saffron rice hails from the south of Thailand, where it is often eaten with roast chicken. Saffron rice makes dinner extra special and is nearly as easy to make as regular rice. You don't need to own a rice cooker to make this recipe. The rice is boiled in a pot on the stove but tastes very similar to steamed rice. And, unlike most saffron rice recipes, this one is fat free.

Saffron brings not only its signature flavor to this dish but also provides its signature yellow color to the rice. Because saffron is so expensive, this recipe calls for just a small amount, and the color is enhanced by adding turmeric. Not only does that spice have incredible health benefits (in Thailand, turmeric is known as "poor man's saffron"), but it also turns the rice a vibrant yellow color.

This recipe calls for chicken stock, but if you want to make it vegetarian, use vegetable stock and replace the fish sauce with salt. 

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock (good quality; or vegetable stock)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed chile
  • 1 squeeze lemon juice (or lime)
  • 2 cups white Thai jasmine-scented rice (or white basmati rice; not brown rice)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for saffron rice
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  2. Pour the stock into a medium-sized pot with a tight-fitting lid. Place the pot on the stove over high heat.

    Pour stock in pot
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  3. While the stock is coming to a boil, add the turmeric, saffron, chile (if using), and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Stir well.

    Broth in pot
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  4. Add the rice plus 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (or 1/4 teaspoon salt) and stir. Bring to a boil.

    Add the rice
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  5. Reduce the heat to low and cover tightly with a lid. Cook 12 to 15 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed by the rice. (Insert a fork or knife straight down into the pot and push the rice aside. If you see liquid, it still needs more time to cook.)

    Rice in pot
    The Spruce
  6. When most of the liquid is gone, turn off the heat and place the lid on tightly. Allow the pot to remain on the burner for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until you're ready to eat. The residual heat inside the pot will finish steaming the rice. The rice will stay warm in this way for 1 hour or more.

    Lid on pot
    The Spruce
  7. Before serving, remove the lid and fluff rice with chopsticks or a fork. Taste test for salt, adding 1/2 tablespoon more fish sauce or a little more salt if needed (the amount will depend on the saltiness of your stock). If the rice tastes too salty, add another squeeze of lemon juice. 

    Remove lid and fluff rice
    The Spruce
  8. Serve and enjoy.

Tips

  • Along with the flecks of red chile, you may notice a few splashes of reddish orange coloring throughout your rice. This is from the saffron and is desirable.
  • If you want a bright note, add chopped parsley or cilantro on top of the rice.
  • Leftover rice can be stored in the refrigerator and used the next day.

Why Is Saffron Expensive?

Thanks to the labor-intensive harvesting process, low yield, and it's extremely low weight, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world per weight. Saffron has an earthy, lightly floral taste that adds a nuanced flavor to dishes and a deep golden hue.